President Donald Trump wants a new Space Force branch of the U.S. army, but it opens an old discussion about military use in the space. Here, the U. S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with former NASA astronaut and air force Colonel Buzz Aldrin.
(U. S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz)
President Donald Trump, is the call this week that the creation of a sixth branch of the U.S. military — what he called the “Space Force” — is once again open to a wider debate on the question of whether such exercise is necessary to a better management of the military space. Although the idea of a separate space-oriented military branch is not new, Trump’s surprise announcement caused a buzz on social media and news outlets.
“When it comes to the defense of America, it is not enough to have only an American presence in space. We have the American dominance in space,” Trump said in a speech to a meeting of the National Space Council in the White House on Monday (June 18). “I am the director of the Department of Defense and the Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to become a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That is a big statement.
“We’re going to the air force, and we are going to the Space-Power — separate but equal,” he continued. “It is going to be something. Is so important.” Trump then directed a comment to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford. “Gene. Dunford, if you would run the command, I would be greatly honored, too.” [Military Space Spacecraft, Weapons and Tech]
Trump’s comments follow decades of discussion about a separate area, the municipality, including a recent 2017 try to create a new U.S. Space Corps. At the time, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, drafted legislation for the new corps in 2018, the National Defense Authorization Act. While the US secretary of the air force was supposed to oversee this new branch, the U.S. Space Corps would have had its own seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Senior military officials is not universal, approval of the proposal, and it was eventually withdrawn.
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But some space experts say that Trump’s announcement can at least track more discussion about how to best manage space activities.
The United States for many years about the safety of the satellites and how best to protect them, said Barry Strauss, a military and naval historian who is a humanistic studies professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He told Space.com that it would be good to have a public debate about what to do.
“It’s going to be very controversial,” he said. “The logistical questions are controversial; the funding request are controversial. When you start in a new section of something, it is controversial. Our resources are limited, so they [new sources] will have to come from somewhere else. But as you know, it’s not like the president can snap his fingers and make this happen. It is something that Congress will have to debate and discuss.”
But it is difficult to say how a Space of Power would change things, because the air force of the US oversees the military space asset procurement budget with the participation of the other military branches, noted Joan Johnson-freese, a professor of national security affairs at the U. S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Also, there are concerns about how to protect satellites without breaking international treaties and, more pressingly, the generation of more space debris in the firing of offensive weapons on satellites.
“Why do we need a Space Force? What is an Area of Strength going to do, which currently is not being done by the air force?” she said Space.com. Trump’s idea to “dominate” space also raises questions, she said, in military terms ,”dominate” generally means a complete control of a limited geography for a limited period of time. “How can you dominate the room?” she asked. “How do you have control over everything for an indefinite period of time?”
Dozens of years of military work
The United States military activity in the area dates back to the beginning of the Space Age, when the Corona reconnaissance satellite launched in 1959 under President Dwight Eisenhower administration. In the 1960s, there were military astronauts who first participated in the Dyna-Soar program and the Manned Spacecraft Laboratory, or MOL (both were eventually cancelled, with the MOLE, never the achievement of a job). The space shuttle flew military missions in the 1980s and early 1990s. And the past decades have seen many space and military programs: reconnaissance satellites, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agencyprograms and activities by the National Reconnaissance Office, to name a few.
The air force was the procurement lead on space activities, regardless of the military branch in which the program originates. [The Most Destructive Weapons Space Concepts]
The idea of a separate Space Force is going all the way back to Eisenhower, said John Logsdon, a professor emeritus of political science and international relations at The George Washington University, specializing in the exploration of space. After the Soviet Union launches the first satellite, Sputnik in 1957, the United States debated her answer. There was concern at the time that the Soviet missile prowess in the space can be easily forwarded to intercontinental ballistic missiles targeting the United States.
“President Eisenhower is the first impulse was to take all the space activity in the Ministry of Defence [ministry of defence], and the scientific community would tell the DoD what to do if the space-science was involved,” Logsdon said. “He said that by his brand-new science adviser, James Killian, and his vice-president, Richard Nixon, who in the argument that the United States would be better off with a separate civil agency openly engaged in international cooperation that could talk about, on the one hand, while it was about classified military space activity on the other side.”
Some in the national security committee were not happy with that decision, particularly the air force, Logsdon continued. When President John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960, a number of military observers thought that he would revisit the idea and approve of a separate military space branch. Kennedy did consider the idea, but ultimately rejected.[Presidential Visions for Space: From Ike to Trump]
“He and the people close to him were asked, arms controllers. They did not want to see the potential for an armed conflict spread to this domain of activity,” Logsdon said. The outer space treaty of 1967 — that the Kennedy administration helped work — includes language advocating for a peaceful use of the space and the banning of weapons in space or on celestial bodies, Logsdon said.
But Kennedy’s management had a subtle take on this ban. It was of the opinion that the weapons for defensive capabilities (such as the protection of a satellite anti-satellite missiles) would meet the requirements of the treaty — something that some other countries didn’t agree, Logsdon said.
The idea of more military space control occurs in the AMERICAN space industry, such as in the failed “Star Wars” program of the 1980’s, that a number of anti-satellite components. The theme of this several attempts, Logsdon said, is to ensure (or well-founded or not) about Air Force procurement control — the belief that the space priorities are on the second place in a military branch dominated by the pilots, such as the purchase of aircraft.
But he warned that a new Space Force would have its own problems, because legal battles over which military branch determines what would be likely to erupt. “What would be included in a new Space Force is a question with both substantive and bureaucratic consequences of the first order,” he said.
Johnson-freese added that, in the decades of debate over a separate space branch, the discussion never went too far. That was because of bureaucratic objections and concerns about the time and money it would cost for the establishment of a new branch. Although Trump have the Joint Chiefs making a report, it is difficult to predict how his proposal goes much further, Johnson-freese said.
“We already spend more [military space] than the other major spacefaring countries together all of them,” she said. “We already have more satellites in space than the others. Our technology moves forward. We certainly need to stay ahead, but we need a new bureaucracy to remain technologically? … This [idea] is not new, and the resistance for many legitimate reasons.”
Original article on Space.com.